by Seha Kim, Johannes Burge
Visual systems estimate the three-dimensional (3D) structure of scenes from information in two-dimensional (2D) retinal images. Visual systems use multiple sources of information to improve the accuracy of these estimates, including statistical knowledge of the probable spatial arrangements of natural scenes. Here, we examine how 3D surface tilts are spatially related in real-world scenes, and show that humans pool information across space when estimating surface tilt in accordance with these spatial relationships. We develop a hierarchical model of surface tilt estimation that is grounded in the statistics of tilt in natural scenes and images. The model computes a global tilt estimate by pooling local tilt estimates within an adaptive spatial neighborhood. The spatial neighborhood in which local estimates are pooled changes according to the value of the local estimate at a target location. The hierarchical model provides more accurate estimates of groundtruth tilt in natural scenes and provides a better account of human performance than the local model. Taken together, the results imply that the human visual system pools information about surface tilt across space in accordance with natural scene statistics.